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The Poynter Center welcomes its first two non-stipendiary fellows

This fall, the Poynter Center welcomes two non-stipendiary fellows.

Sean McCloud is an IU alumnus. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts here, he received a Master of Arts from Miami University in Ohio and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, where he now teaches in the religious studies department. He is spending his time at the Poynter Center on a book project, "American Possessions: Consuming Religions and Fighting Demons in the Contemporary United States."

Sean McCloud

Sean McCloud

He describes the book as follows: "Many studies of contemporary American religion suggest that we reside in a late modern neoliberal era in which identities, practices and ideas are decreasingly ascribed by family, history, occupation and community. The notion that people may -- indeed must -- 'choose' the lifestyle with which to identify themselves is fueled by consumer capitalism, mass-mediated culture divorced from historical contextualization and the increasing authority of subjective experience. ... This explanatory trope is useful for thinking about the modern intertwining of religion and consumer capitalism, and it is partly supported by polls and surveys.

"At the same time, less-nuanced versions problematically mirror both neoliberal ideology and a prominent, contemporary theology of class that I call 'economic arminianism.' Specifically, these frameworks tend to ignore the force and power of the social world to push and propel individuals into lives that are not necessarily of their own choosing. In an era of the international restructuring of work lives and its resultant dislocations, economic arminianism and neoliberalism offer divine and secular apologetics for class inequalities by asserting that such differences can be explained through the moral choices (and failings) of atomistic, autonomous individuals. In other words, the rich get blessed, the poor get damned, and the social and material circumstances that lay outside any one person's control disappear, replaced by conjurations of individual will, free choice and rational market models."

McCloud presented excerpts of his book at a Poynter Roundtable in September.

Beth Dixon is professor of philosophy at State University of New York-Plattsburgh. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Berkeley and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and she specializes in philosophy of mind, ethics, and ethics and animals. She is spending part of her sabbatical at the Poynter Center working on a book project tentatively titled "Applying Moral Particularism." The project aims to define moral particularism and present viable strategies for using it to teach in a variety of educational contexts.

At a Poynter Roundtable in November, Dixon presented a case study of how narratives frame ethical thinking about the topic of food justice. A diverse group of scholars and community members discussed how different narratives lead people to identify what is ethically salient about the topic.